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Today I am going to share with you a positive discipline technique that has been working very well for our little family. I am sure there are many parents, like myself, looking for a gentle way to discourage misbehavior in their strong-willed toddler and this article will give you a solution.

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There are days where my son won’t listen to me no matter what I do.

Some days, I give him everything I got.

I get down on his level.

I try to identify his feelings and talk to him about them.

I give him choices in the process while still directing him to what I need him to do.  An example of this is saying something like “We need to brush our teeth now. Do you want to do it by yourself or do you want mommy to help you?”

No matter what I do he throws off attitude and doesn’t follow my instructions. It’s a two-year-old thing but honestly, it’s exhausting.

I have found some pleasant ways to cope with mommy exhaustion but let’s face it, it gets old arguing with a toddler over every little task.

If you have a high-spirited toddler, my heart goes out to you. I am right there with you. Which is why I wanted to share my latest positive discipline technique that has been working really well for us.

Instead of a “time-out” we do a “time in.”

What is a time in?

I start our time-in by sitting cross-legged on the floor and instruct my son to do the same. Then I put my hands in my lap and ask him to put his hands in his lap.

Then I ask him to look me in the eyes and sing a song together. Our current song for time-in is the ABC song. I like this song because it helps him learn his letters and he seems to enjoy singing it. If he stops enjoying this song I will likely change it up and teach him another song.

Once we are done with the song the time-in is over. We give each other a hug and then I ask him to do the same task he was originally refusing. For the most part, he follows instructions gracefully after a time-in (fingers crossed).

Why does time-in work better than time-out?

Time-in is an effective way to break a negative behavior. This tactic is so much more effective than time-out for many reasons.

For one, time-ins promote togetherness whereas time-outs promote isolation.

Time-in gives your toddler something he or she craves very much, your undivided attention.

It is also a great way to pull them out of a disruptive behavior because it makes them sit still and focus. I do not allow the time-in to move forward if my son removes his hands from his lap. This is part of the process, learning to control his mind enough to focus on one task (the singing) without moving his body.

It’s pretty hard for toddlers to sit still, even for a minute. But practicing this skill is essential for future success in the classroom.

Sometimes, when my son isn’t listening well, all I have to say to him is, “Do you need to have a time in?”

Just reminding him he’s going to get a time-in often stops a negative behavior.

To be honest, when we first started struggling with not listening, I didn’t know what to do so I gave my son a couple time-outs.

It was awful. Not only did the time-out make him feel betrayed and sad, but it made me feel like an authoritarian.

My goal as a parent is to guide my children throughout life so they learn acceptable social skills yet become independent, out-of-the-box thinkers who aren’t afraid to question the status quo.

I want to nurture their moral compass so they know without a doubt when an authority figure is making a decision that compromises their personal values and be fearless to stand up.

Time-outs didn’t seem to be steering us in toward those goals yet I needed SOMETHING to get his attention.

Positive parenting techniques takes a lot of effort

Parenting feels a lot like going into the woods with a swiss army knife.

We have all these tools at our disposal but may not know which one will work the best for the situation at hand. This is why I like to continuously educate myself on best practices when it comes to parenting.

Just as my parents were better than theirs, I hope to learn from the mistakes of previous generations as documented in timeless literature like the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen.

As I go through my parenting journey, I always come back to the desire to be a gentle parent to my children. I have written about positive ways to deal with toddler temper tantrums in the past and ways to promote a calm home.

But as of late I still find that navigating each stage of toddlerhood to be like the wild west. I’m glad I have a swiss army knife so to speak.

Right now the “time-in” is my go-to positive discipline technique. I have found it to be super effective, especially since both of us leave with a smile on our face.

Positive parenting takes a lot of energy and effort on your part. If you feel like collapsing at the end of the day and don’t want to talk to anyone, you are likely doing a great job with your kids.

Sure, it’s so much easier to yell at misbehavior, turn on the TV, or send your child to his room. But ultimately, you have to put the work in to mold your children into excellent humans.

I wanted to make sure I mentioned this before I end the article so you have realistic expectations.

One day I will have hindsight on my side and be able to come back and edit this.

I will hopefully be able to tell you to hold on tight mama, you are about to turn the corner.

I don’t really know what to expect because I am just starting out, with many miles to go before I say with pride, “That’s MY son right there! I raised him!”

I hope these words help you on your journey.


What is your favorite way to discipline your toddler gently? I want to learn from you so leave me a comment!